While a healthy thyroid helps support hair growth, thyroid imbalances can negatively impact it. It's estimated that as many as 59 million Americans have a thyroid problem, but the majority don't know it yet. The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck, is the master gland of metabolism. When your thyroid doesn't function, it can affect every aspect of your health, and in particular, weight, depression and energy levels.
The thyroid does not affect the scalp itself, but it can interfere with the hair growth cycle. If you are experiencing scalp problems alongside a thyroid imbalance it is probably coincidental.
WHAT IS THE THYROID AND WHY DOES IT AFFECT HAIR GROWTH?
Your thyroid is a gland at the base of your neck that regulates your bodies’ metabolism via the production of ‘thyroid hormone’. It also controls the production of proteins and tissue utilisation of oxygen – which is why it affects hair follicles and hair growth.
Thyroid disorders occur when your thyroid gland produces too much or too little hormone. This is classed as either ‘hyper’ (high) or ‘hypo’ (low) thyroid, whereby your thyroid is either over or underactive. Either a hypo or hyperthyroid can cause hair loss – and in fact a hypothyroid is known to cause hair loss in up to 50% of people.
7 most common symptoms of low thyroid function are:
1. Severe fatigue/loss of energy: If you suffer from a thyroid issue, you may feel highly fatigued and sleep more than average — but even after the extra sleep you don’t feel rested or have any energy.
2. Weight gain/difficulty losing weight: When your thyroid slows down — even a bit — so does your metabolism. That’s why unusual and unexplained weight gain and changes to body shape can be the first noticeable symptoms.
3. Dry skin, brittle nails: New wrinkles, dry or cracked patches, and itchy rashes are signs of imbalance in your thyroid hormones.
4. Brittle hair, itchy scalp, hair loss: Your thyroid plays a role in your hair’s growing and resting cycle. Without proper thyroid functioning, your hair follicles stay in the “resting” phase rather than growing actively. In addition to brittle hair or hair loss, thyroid issues can also cause premature graying of the hair.
5. More sensitivity to cold and lower body temperature. Always feeling cold is a telltale sign of a problem with your thyroid hormones, which greatly influence body temperature.
6. Diminished sex drive: Imbalances in your thyroid can affect your reproductive hormones, and lead to lower levels of desire.
7. Puffiness in face and extremities: Another telltale symptom of hypothyroidism is puffiness in the face, most often around the eyes.
As one of the centers of your endocrine system, your thyroid influences how your other hormones are used. That’s why an underactive thyroid can influence so many functions in your body — and lead to such a wide range of symptoms.
Thyroid disorders are easily diagnosed during a routine blood test. Read more about Thyroid biomarkers, tests, and what they mean here.